Sydney FC coach, Ante Juric says the W-League is not respected and Australia’s elite female footballers deserve better.
Juric guided the Sky Blues to second spot in the W-League this season and will face Newcastle Jets in Saturday’s semi-final for a spot in the following week’s Grand Final.
Juric has a long history with the women’s game in Australia, starting as an assistant during the first two W-League seasons of 2008 and 2009 under current Matildas coach Alen Stajcic.
Before joining the Sky Blues this season, Juric was an assistant Matildas coach, as well as head coach of the U-17 and U-19 Australian women’s national youth teams.
Juric told FourFourTwo that while the W-League has improved he clearly feels the players are justified in demanding even better pay and conditions.
“The girls deserve more because they put in the same effort as any other elite athletes,” he said.
Under the new pay deal for this season, players in the W-League get a minimum payment of $10,000 but Juric believes that is not enough.
“They deserve more money, they are on the minimum, but they train like crazy,” he said. “You can do something if you push more, if you put a little bit more money into it.
“Then you get a bit more respect for the league. Right now I don’t think we have respect for the league.”
Juric said the league is still not getting enough coverage in the mainstream media.
“I look at the Daily Telegraph on Sunday and Monday and there aren’t any W-League results there,” he said.
“There is rarely anything on Fox if it’s not a Fox game. We shouldn’t settle for just a little bit.
“FFA needs to do more in my book because the market is there for women’s sports and we need to push forward.”
Juric also compared the success of the AFLW where the influence of the sport’s governing body has been instrumental in growing the sport over the last 12 months.
“The AFL has a lot more money I get that, but they have only been going for a year and a bit and they get 20,000 to games,” he said.
“Yes, their tickets are free but I’m looking at from a team/ coach/ player perspective.
“When you play in front of crowds like that you are buzzing and those girls aren’t even close to the level of our players abilities in the W-League at the moment.”
The Sydney derby that took place last weekend between the Sky Blues and Wanderers saw a record crowd at Seymour Shaw of 2519 making it Sydney W-League largest crowd ever for a standalone game (including finals).
Prior to that a number of A-League and W-League double headers were played but Juric said not all have been a success.
“When you see the effort the players put in, when you see the quality they have, they deserve their own crowds,” he said.
“Yes, it’s been better with the double headers but I also believe the women deserve their own field and playing in their own right and for people to go and watch them because we don’t get a whole heap of fans coming earlier.
The W-League goes for 12 rounds in a nine-team league but Juric feels the teams deserve to play a full two rounds during a season.
“That would make it fair for the teams because you have a champion at the end of the year and you don’t play each other twice,” he said.
“I’m still baffled by that.”
A frustrated Juric also pointed to the growing number of Australians playing overseas and how the scheduling of the W-League doesn’t allow enough time for returning players to join their clubs in time.
“Another example is why us here at Sydney didn’t do so well in the first three weeks was that I had players rocking up in week one and that’s because of how the league sits,” he said.
“When it starts our players come from overseas so you can’t fill your team. It’s good players are playing overseas but people don’t see the real toughness of it.
“So, until the league becomes strong and not a secondary thought for some people then we are not going to be what people say it can be.
“So yes, it has been better, don’t get me wrong but I see all those types of things and I think that should not ever be part of this league.
“It needs to improve and the only people that can change that is the FFA.”